January 22, 2010

The biggest truths in the smallest stories

Last Sunday I met female disciple Tabitha at Safe Haven Church that I've started going to, in Acts, chapter 9, in a sermon on compassion. Pastor Martin talked about the difference between pity and compassion. He said that pity is a heavy burdened heart for someone in a hard/sad situation...but that is where is stops. But compassion extends a hand to reach out to someone past the point of pity. At this point the Pastor turns to people and just shouts: "SLOW DOWN AND HELP PEOPLE!"

How often have I heard this sermon? What does it take for one to reach out after being moved? We can sit in church and be moved by his words, but yet we come back to the same seat next week and don't even know the names of the people that sit beside us. I call myself a Christian, I claim to love my neighbours, and yet I don't even know my neighbors names. How much does the Pastor have to raise his voice, and shout because he so badly wants us on this Sunday to "get it" and live it?

This past Tuesday I took the subway into downtown Toronto to meet with a friend I haven't seen in months. For the first time since moving here I was in a rush as I tried to get from the OHIP office to Starbucks. I ran with the crowd at the crossover to the Bloor line and stopped for all of a heartbeat to watch a staggering hungover woman struggle...no, I shouldn't make this sound nice...flailing around, smash her head into the wall, spilling her coffee everywhere. I looked- and just as quickly turned away and caught the subway.

As soon as I sat down on the train I had this sinking feeling as I realized just what I'd done- exactly what Pastor Martin told us not to do.

If I was in Africa, Asia, the Ukraine...I would have stopped to help her- in fact, it probably would have been shared as a heart touching story, or snapped as a brochure cover for some great humanitarian organization. But in my own neighborhood? I was too busy again.

I arrived at Starbucks 5 minutes early. That's all it would have taken for me to help her stand up and walk to somewhere out of a dirty stairwell where she could have sat down and had something to eat and a simple glass of water. I had time. In fact, in the stories that immediately come to mind in the bible that illustrate compassion- Jesus, the good samaritan, they were both headed somewhere. They didn't just aimlessly wander around looking for random acts of kindness- they had their own day and schedule ahead of them, people following them, and people to meet. But they had time. And so either way you look at it, I had time too... 5 minutes early, or even if it meant being 15 minutes late- I had time.

And so I thought I could check off the "not busy" part of the sermon as I look at my life and try to plant my feet here serving, being in relationships and community. But in a mere few days I lost it and became a failure once again to the Christian love Pastor Martin shouted about. I wouldn't even call it pity that came across me, but only pitiful.

...And so I wonder, what does it take to hear but then act?

January 15, 2010

Time In Between...

I've been walking the streets of Pickering this week, getting this girl with no sense of direction oriented to my new city to the tune of Francesca Battistelli. Her lyrics seem to always have this uncanny ability, on any given day, to capture where I find myself. Today it is in the "Time in between... That I fall down to my knees...Waiting on what You'll bring...And the things that I can't see...I know my song’s incomplete...Still I'll sing in the time in between."

Oh, I'm singin' alright...loud and clear down the streets of Pickering, much to the humour of others on the sidewalk of that I'm sure...trusting God to this time of transition- being in the middle of a tour that has finished and what is next in life. I have come very accustomed to, and often avoid the question "What is next?" Not because I don't have an idea of what I want to do now that tour is over, but because the question doesn't ask for what is before then- this time of preparation.

And it's for that reason that I still want to keep blogging. Last night talking to a dear friend she asks "was it you that said you wanted to blog every week?" Admittedly, and if you could see me right now with a sheepish look on my face, I know that I haven't done that faithfully. But writing here once or twice a week is part of my list of goals for this time in between. Since being home, processing, and going to Urbana (the largest missions conference in N. America) I have a better idea of what I want to live for, and now want to keep writing the vision of getting there.

Part of my inspiration for getting there comes from author Donald Miller, who says to think in narrative rather than goals, for goals will get met in the journey of the story. A story involves wanting something. I want to go back to work long term in Uganda- living for a mission that brings hope to children by developing their potential and confidence through both education and the arts. Another want...
I want to design a music education/music therapy program to work with Ugandan children, specifically children that were former child soldiers and are child mothers.

The second part of God giving us the pen and writing out our story says Miller is to envision a climatic scene- see it, imagine what it looks like, smells like and sounds like to keep it real. And so I start to work towards being surrounded once again by the most genuine joy I have ever felt of living with, forming relationships, and teaching children in their context- a culture that is beautifully relational.

Lastly, Miller says that we need inciting incidents in life- we need to solve new problems, work towards that vision and get moving! And so for those of you wondering..."So, what are you doing now?" This is what I'm working on to get me there...
1. I'm going to start by taking a course called perspectives- a 15 week discipleship course. I've lived many different experiences, but also want to get the education now on missions, different cultures, and examining missions throughout the context of the bible.
2. I'm working on gaining a support network here in Pickering, and planting myself in a home church that I can partner with, and most importantly right now that I can jump in and serve with! More to come after Sunday in my I PROMISE weekly updates this time!
3. Improving my own music skills- I'd like to volunteer at a Toronto hospital with a music therapist and take a course in Kodaly. (For those of you wondering what is this? Imagine yourself in clothes made out of old drapes in a horse drawn carriage singing along "do re me..." with Maria in the Sound of Music and Kodaly is that system of teaching music!)

I'm so glad for you reading this and following with me- life blesses you with wonderful friends and then with each new chapter scatters them near and far. Thank goodness for places like this where with the click of a button we can be together in thought.